Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Says Former Justice Minister ‘Kidnapped’ by Security Forces

Plainclothes officers in Tunisia’s capital on Friday arrested a senior Ennahdha party official, who played a central role in the country’s politics until President Kais Saied took power.

The party condemned the arrest of Noureddine Bhiri, a former justice minister and vice president of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha, as a “dangerous precedent”.

“Plainclothes officers in two cars arrested Noureddine Bhiri as he was leaving home with his wife” in Tunisia, Samir Dilou, a lawyer and former legislator, told AFP.

Tunisia was the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring riots of a decade ago, but civil society groups and opponents of Saied have expressed fear of a pushback to authoritarianism a decade after the revolution that toppled the dictator. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Saied on July 25 removed the Ennahdha-supported government and suspended parliament, presenting himself as the highest interpreter of the constitution.

He later took steps to rule by decree and, in early December, promised to go ahead with reforms of the political system.

>> Thousands of Tunisians demonstrate against the presidential takeover near the suspended parliament

The former law professor announced an 11-week “popular consultation” to produce a “draft of constitutional and other reforms” before a referendum on July 25.

His opponents have denounced a “coup” and warned against what they see as Saied’s desire to settle scores with those he has called “enemies” but never names.

Bhiri was “brutally arrested and taken to an unknown destination,” Dilou said.

The agents also seized the mobile phone of Bhiri’s wife, Saida Akremi, who is a lawyer, it added.

No official source was available to explain the reasons for the arrest.

In a statement, Ennahdha said that Bhiri was being questioned by the authorities and denounced “a kidnapping and a dangerous precedent that marks the entry of the country into a tunnel towards dictatorship.”

Ennahdha was the largest party in the legislature suspended by Saied.

But political rivalries had blocked ministerial appointments and diverted resources to address Tunisia’s growing economic and social problems, prompting many in the country to initially welcome the president’s takeover.

In its statement on Friday, Ennahdha denounced “the liquidation of opponents outside the legal framework.”

A Tunisian court last week sentenced former President Moncef Marzouki, a fierce critic of Saied, to four years in prison in absentia.


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